Reviews header Selected from Shivers #87

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: ten pages of reviews, covering:

Video / DVD Reviews •
Stephen Foster on a new host of DVDs including the barnstorming zombie-fest Day of the Dead, Eraserhead and more of a whimper than a bang - Supernova

Book Reviews •
New Horrors from two old masters: From the Corner of his Eye
by Dean Koontz, and Stephen King's Dreamcaster

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins keeps ahead of Sky One (just!) with two more episodes each from the new seasons of Buffy and Angel, plus Jonathan Rigby on Ghost Stories for Christmas, a treat with Christopher Lee

Film Reviews •
Feature review of Dario Argento's Nonhosonno, plus Darren Aronofsky’s harrowing Requiem for a Dream and The Gift, Sam Raimi’s deep South supernatural tale

DVD Review
Eraserhead

Director: David Lynch • Starring:
Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Laurel Near
Region2 (PAL) DVD
Ratio: 1.33:1, Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 (192kbps)
Distributor: Universal
Order it from Blackstar today!

Eraserhead on DVD

Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #87

Lynch’s first commercially released film is also his bleakest, and least accessible, playing like some freakish student film. It’s also very compelling, if you happen to be on its wavelength, and contains some of cinema’s most strikingly surreal imagery.

Universal’s DVD, apparently the first version to be released anywhere in the world, presents the film in full-frame ratio, which doesn’t ring entirely true. The image is soft, as you might expect from a film that only cost $10,000, but pretty clean, and relatively stable. The sound is stereo (the film was remixed for a theatrical re-release a couple of years ago) and, although not as elaborate as you might expect given Lynch’s typically dense use of sound, generally tight and focused.

The film is supported by a 40” trailer, a couple of pages of Lynch biography and a filmography that – once again – has been lifted wholesale and without credit from the Internet Movie Database.

Film Review
Nonhosonno (I Can't Sleep / Sleepless)

Director: Dario Argento • Starring:
Max Von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Rossella Falk

Argento's I Can't Sleep

Reviewed by Chris Gallant
selected and edited from Shivers #87

Dario Argento’s long-promised return to form has become the Horror fan’s Holy Grail. For many a Euro-Horror buff, recent years have seen a gradual decline, with the likelihood of a comeback seeming ever more remote. Until now.

Nonhosonno (I Can’t Sleep) presents a glorious return to the tradition of the giallo, the thriller mode through which Argento originally made his name. Brilliantly constructed, consummately stylish, it surpasses a good many of its predecessors, emerging as one of the greatest triumphs of its director’s career. And it’s genuinely frightening, drawing out the suspense with a dexterity not seen since Tenebrae.

A bizarre murder case from Eighties Turin casts a grim shadow over the present, as a prostitute unearths a package full of evidence which identifies one of her clients as the killer. She is swiftly silenced, however, in a bloodbath aboard an empty late night train. His taste for murder apparently reawakened, the killer sets about selecting another victim, continuing a macabre pattern he left unfinished in the Eighties.

The narrative is daft beyond all belief, as outrageous and shamelessly off-the-wall as Argento has ever given us. There’s the legend of the killer dwarf, the unfeasibly ghoulish children’s storybook, a psychotic clockwork dummy, death by cor anglais – this film is anything but predictable. But it works. Like all the best whodunnits, it fools its audience into believing they’re one step ahead, until each audacious twist and each unlikely revelation leaves you reeling in awe. Even with a running time of two hours, Nonhosonno is so tightly constructed that it will have you hooked from the first moment, sustaining the tension to the last frame.

The performances are superb, with Max Von Sydow and Stefano Dionisi clearly enjoying themselves as the neurotic sleuths. But Rossella Falk, for my money, steals the show as tragic Laura De Fabritiis, mother of the infamous dwarf. The supporting army of nubile victims is, for a change, largely well acted by a cast of unknowns – they’re an amiably comic lot, making their agonizing deaths all the more deliciously cruel.

Pray for a swift UK release and hope that this time the latest Argento will make it further than the shelves of your local Blockbuster. Subtitles would, of course, be particularly welcome, but I think by now we’ve learned to accept that the best we’re likely to get is the usual Euro-dub... Even the wonderfully evocative title I Can’t Sleep has been dropped in favour of the non-descript Sleepless for the English language release. Nonhosonno can’t come any more highly recommended. It is the masterpiece we have all been waiting for. The crowned king of Italian Horror is back on top form and let’s hope he stays there.

Book Review
From the Corner of his Eye

By Dean Koontz
Published by Hodder Headline, 646pp h/b and trade p/b

From the Corner of his Eye
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #87

Dean Koontz is the author of numerous thrillers, many with a Science Fiction or Horrific basis. Recent titles include False Memory, Seize the Night and Fear Nothing.

Dean Koontz has long been one of my favourite writers of SF/Horror-tinged thrillers, and like all prolific authors he has his good days and his bad. I’m not sure what to make of From the Corner of his Eye as it really is a book of two halves.

It’s the story of Junior, an apparently normal man who suddenly and without warning pushes his pretty young wife to her death. It appears to be an accident and yet an inquisitive detective named Tom Vanadium thinks otherwise. There are connections being made in Junior’s life which almost defy the term coincidence.

As the plot develops we learn that Junior – far from being the stable young man as initially assumed – is a card-carrying nutter, and once raped the daughter of a Baptist minister while she was listening to one of her father’s recorded sermons. The child of this union is then adopted by the girl’s sister when she dies giving birth. At the same time, Agnes Lampion has a son whom she names Barty. And Junior is convinced that someone called Bartholomew will be his downfall.

It’s a complex plot, hard to follow and with a central idea that there are many different ‘realities’ which diverge as key decisions are either taken or not taken: there’s a reality where Junior does not kill his wife; where Tom is not disfigured; and one where Barty does not lose his sight to childhood cancer (and where he can walk when it is raining in our reality, thus not getting wet). It’s a nice idea, and ultimately the book pulls it off.

The reason I say the book is in two halves, is that, from a very turgid and workmanlike first half, the style of writing changes dramatically around page 350 and suddenly you feel that a master is in control again. All the loose ends are tied up in an effective fashion and the book careers to a superb, tear-jerking conclusion. Either Koontz did not write the first half himself, or he was having one heck of a bad patch. The book reads as though a different author entirely was playing with the characters, having had some initial ideas, but had run out of steam and didn’t know where the plot was going. In addition, there is far too much needless description in the first half, and the actual writing style displays none of Koontz’s trademark flourishes; a recognizable Koontz then comes in, nips and tucks the plot, and brings it back on the rails.

A neat thriller, but one which you have to sit through a tedious 300 or so pages before it starts to deliver.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001.
Images © Universal, Eureka, Hodder Headline Books. Not for reproduction